A D-Day veteran from Norfolk was proud to meet Her Majesty The Queen at the 70th anniversary commemorations in Normandy last week. He was even more thrilled when he was introduced to an old comrade, The Duke of Edinburgh.
Len Bloomfield, a 92 year old former Royal Marine, served on HMS Mauritius in June 1944 where he was Captain of a four inch gun crew tasked with the mission of destroying the German batteries that were defending Sword Beach. Mr Bloomfield returned to Normandy on June 6th with the Royal British Legions Remembrance travel tour.
Following the emotional remembrance service at Bayeux Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, Mr Bloomfield mingled with dignitaries from across Europe, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, before the proudest moment of his personal tour came. Mr Bloomfield said: “First of all I met Mr Cameron, I thought he was very good, he then introduced me to The Queen. I said ‘Thank you for very much for coming Ma’am’ and she replied that it was a pleasure”.
Len continued: “I mentioned to The Queen that I served with Prince Philip in the Mediterranean in 1940 and she said to me ‘Oh he was a sub lieutenant then’, she turned around and said ‘Philip there is someone here who wants to meet you'”.
Mr Bloomfield then spoke to the Duke and told him he was on HMS Resolution on H Force in Gibraltar in 1940. During the rest of the trip Mr Bloomfield visited some smaller cemeteries and laid wreaths and poppies on behalf of Swanton Morley and his home town of Beetley. He also said that another emotional moment came when, on his return to Normandy, he was greeted by the people of France as he moved between services at Bayeux Cathedral and Bayeux Cemetery.
On D-Day itself, Len Bloomfield played a key role in the naval bombardment which carved a path for the advancing allies. After beginning the onslaught in the early hours of June 6th, his ship kept pounding enemy positions until August. As the invasion progressed, the aiming of the bombardment moved further inland and his crew were eventually ordered to target the city of Caen, where Mr Bloomfield’s brother was serving as a military policeman.
Mr Bloomfield also took part in the landings at Sicily, Salerno and Anzio, but he recalled that the crucial factor on D-Day was the air cover. He said: “When I saw the RAF up there, I knew we were going to win, by the same token I knew how catastrophic it would be should we fail. I was happy though that we were going in to France at last, to help those people who were under suppression”.
Mr Bloomfield is one of the few soldiers to have been awarded six campaign medals during a military career which took him from the Artic to the Mediterranean, and from the Far East to Australia.